Justice starting anew - as a backup - in Denver

Offensive tackle Winston Justice. (Paul Sancya/AP)
Offensive tackle Winston Justice. (Paul Sancya/AP)
Posted: January 31, 2014

NEWARK, N.J. - Winston Justice wasn't traded unknowingly to the Colts two years ago. He said that the Eagles called him one March day and asked him if he wanted to play elsewhere.

"They called and asked, 'Do you want to be traded?' It wasn't like they traded me," Justice, now a Broncos tackle, said this week. "They were like, 'Do you want to do this, like, before we do this? Are you sure?' So it was like they gave me a choice to do it or not."

He said yes and was dealt to Indianapolis for an exchange of sixth-round draft picks that jumped the Eagles ahead 15 spots. If Justice hadn't accepted the trade, he might have been cut.

Or the Eagles might have kept him through training camp only to release him before the season. Or he might have made the team, but it was unlikely considering the testy relationship he had with offensive line coach Howard Mudd.

It was an unceremonious end to Justice's six-year, [mostly] tumultuous run with the Eagles. After one season with the Colts, he signed with the Broncos just before the season.

He played only four games of mop-up duty, but is at the Super Bowl for the first time in his career. He said he often thinks about the Eagles, and it didn't take seeing a Philadelphia reporter at media day to remind him of the past.

"Most people know me from my time in Philly but nowhere else," Justice said. "Of course, I always look back at Philly. I have fond memories of Philly. I have bad memories of Philly. I always wanted to be a Philly player."

Drafted in the second round out of Southern Cal in 2007, the soft-spoken Justice didn't have many of the traits one normally associates with a Philly player. He was thrown to the wolves against the New York Giants as a rookie and was beaten by Osi Umenyiora for six sacks.

Asked for both the fondest and worst memories of his Eagles career, Justice said that he did not have the former. As for the latter, he said, "I think you can guess that one" - an obvious nod to the Umenyiora game.

Justice played very little over the next year and a half, but started in 29 games over 2009 and 2010 and earned a contract extension. But he injured his knee late in 2010, had his recovery stagnated by the 2011 NFL lockout, and fell out of favor when Mudd came aboard.

"I don't think that was my lowest moment," Justice said about the time he was demoted. "To be honest, Howard Mudd made me a better player. But there were a bunch of other low moments, I guess."

He started one game, but his days were numbered. Jason Peters ruptured his Achilles tendon two weeks after Justice was traded and he would have likely been a more competent replacement than free agent Demetress Bell, who struggled.

Justice started in 12 games and one playoff game at right tackle for the Colts. When the offseason rolled around, Justice said, Indianapolis offered a multiyear contract, but he turned it down thinking there would be better offers in free agency.

But the offers weren't to his liking and he remained unsigned until the Broncos called just before the start of the season.

"I thought free agency was going to be different, but it didn't work out the way I expected it," Justice said. "That's how life is sometimes."


jmclane@phillynews.com

@Jeff_McLane

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